Elevator Speeches and Other Chances to Connect

"You see things, not as they are, but as you are." - Eric Butterworth

I was involved in a conversation recently on the topic of crafting and delivering an effective elevator speech (our personal 60-second commercial for who we are and what we do). How, in the matter of a minute, could we best convey our message to someone we were meeting for the first time? Being able to deliver an elevator speech successfully involves three goals: be clear about the message; practice until you embody the message, and reframe your mind-body connection to consistently deliver the message, even when the situation feels uncomfortable.

Most of the group in this conversation found the elevator speech moment to be awkward, contrived and, in some cases, terrifying: An out-of-body experience that elicited discomfort and dread. These characteristics aren’t unique to elevator speeches. This awkwardness can appear whenever we are on the spot to deliver a personal message, be it instructions to a subordinate, an important communication to a boss or a delicate negotiation with a testy vendor.

What if we reframed the way we thought about these moments of self-presentation, conditioning our brains and bodies to see the experience in a different way – a way that meets other people where they are and showing up for them as a resource and partner? Rather than allowing the mind to gravitate inward, toward the anxiety of being “on the spot,” we can train the mind to focus outward, on the other person. What is his perspective? What are her challenges? How can I deliver this message in a way that acknowledges the person receiving the message?

Reframing these moments as connections with the other person might just allow us to see them as they are, not as we are, opening up opportunities to achieve greater connections and more productive working relationships.

Take another minute and imagine that you are speaking with a trusted friend or family member about something important to you. How different is the mind-body connection in this situation? What could you learn and apply? Rather than approaching professional self-presentation situations with dread and distress, you may be able to approach them with interest and comfort - even, perhaps, joy!